Ye gods, what is this: am I seeing double? Were they separated at birth? Is it an optical illusion, with one of them looking in a mirror? How else to explain the uncanny resemblance betw–okay, okay, I’ll stop now. Suffice to say this shot of Tom Hardy and Elton John from this morning doesn’t exactly highlight the physical likeness between the hulking actor and the legendarily flamboyant pop star, which is why the thought of the former playing the latter in an upcoming film remains so deliciously, intriguingly weird.
Hardy and John were on hand today at a buyers’ event for the film held by sales agent Good Universe. It was confirmed a couple of weeks ago, however, that Hardy would be channeling his inner Elton for “Rocketman,” an authorized biopic set to be released in the US by Focus Features. And I mean authorized: John himself takes an executive producer credit, while his husband David Furnish is one of the project’s three producers. Unsurprisingly, then, it seems the film will be a largely celebratory portrait of John and his work — publicity materials refer to it as “a larger-than-life movie musical spectacle.”
Screenwriter Lee Hall was Oscar-nominated for his work on “Billy Elliot” — might the film, which stresses the “child prodigy to legend” arc, pursue a similarly cheery tone? First-time feature director Michael Gracey has a background in visual effects, which may be where the “spectacle” comes in. Certainly, transforming Hardy into John is going to be something of a visual effect itself.
However the film turns out, this could be just the kind of surprising left turn Hardy needs at this point in his career. The 36-year-old is one of the most electrifying actors of his generation — too strange and limber to be cornered into a succession of hard-man roles, however accomplished his Bane or his forthcoming reinterpretation of Mad Max. He thrives on playing damaged masculinity — “Warrior,” “Bronson” or “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” all to very different ends — and positively freezes up when cast as a standard-issue Hollywood hero. (Though, to be fair, “This Means War” gave no one involved a chance.)
Perhaps with that in mind, he’s beginning to mix it up nicely. Microbudget British indie “Locke,” picked up by A24 for US release next year, affords him his best acting showcase since “Bronson,” playing a weak-willed family man negotiating a series of personal and professional crises, all from the wheel of his car; it’s acting from the shoulders up, and riveting to watch.
It’s that vulnerability, combined with a natural performer’s magnetism, that should serve him well as the piano man. It’ll also be interesting to see John’s famously protracted struggle with his sexuality played by an actor who has spoken with refreshing frankness about his own fluid sexual identity. As for the physical aspect, John’s appearance — particularly as a younger artist — was so reliant on external trappings that Hardy makes as much sense anyone else. I can’t wait to see to see the results, though we’ll be waiting a while: shooting is set to start in autumn next year, meaning Hardy may be one to pencil in for he 2015 Osar slate.